Get connected to your future career

CHIEDZA PASIPANODYA

LinkedIN

Regardless of what your area of expertise is, it would be unwise to disregard “it isn’t what you know but who you know” as a cliché — especially when looking at the job market.

Experts say 80 per cent of jobs aren’t advertised and can only be accessed through networking. The “hidden” job market can be tough to enter and the required networking skills don’t come naturally to everyone. In an era where who you know determines where you’ll go, it becomes necessary to pull out all the stops and use all the tools possible to procure the job you need.

I joined online networking sites because of my severe fear of missing out. This system of networking seemed to be the next big thing and I thought, why not? Working as a Student Assistant at the Student Employment and Career Centre here at the University of Saskatchewan  changed my views on networking and lead me to enhance my student profile.

People in the office at the SECC seemed to take online networking — sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter — pretty seriously and it was then that I began to realize the importance of a strong online presence. These sites could actually be critical tools to help students build the networks needed to launch their careers.

I find it difficult to approach people, especially those that I need to be talking to in order to get where I want to be in life — but using the Internet makes it easier.

Becoming a conversation starter isn’t that hard, though it requires a dedicated effort. Inviting someone to connect on a site like LinkedIn is more than just sending a generic message, but a matter of making a personal connection. This is great practice for squeezing your way into a warm conversation with prospective employers. Any online networking site is the perfect place to build a profile that will probably serve you well throughout your career because you can continuously update your network and respective profiles.

The restrictions of a one to two page resumé can be frustrating for someone who has worked a myriad of jobs and volunteered for a number of organizations. Making a presence for yourself online is an opportunity to do what you can’t do on your resume — showing what else you do besides what’s listed on those two pages.

Lindsey Pollack, author of the bestselling Getting from College to Career, goes as far as calling LinkedIn, “an online resume on steroids.” This site is only one example, but having a strong, professional online presence is clearly one of the best ways to market yourself in the best light possible without the restrictions of resume and cover letter etiquette.

Using social media provides you with the opportunity to put a whole lot more about you and your experiences out to employers. It allows for you to create your personal brand and offers itself as a kind of sales letter to potential employers. While businesses have brochures, people have online profiles.

One of my favorite aspects of LinkedIn or Twitter is that you can follow organizations that you are interested in working for. In doing so, you can gain access to job postings and tips from recruiters.

Because you can follow who you want and receive subsequent alerts on these networking sites, this also presents you with the opportunity to connect with the recruiters and members of the hiring committees. This gives you the upper hand when you go into the interview. Not only will you have extensive company research, but you will have some knowledge about your interviewers.

LinkedIn reports that approximately 200,000 college students join the site every month. This encourages companies to use the site to recruit internships and entry-level positions. This makes it all the more important to keep your Facebook, Twitter or other personal accounts professional.

Let’s face it, you’re not going to land your dream job right out of university. But starting a career with an entry-level position at a business you want to work for is a great step towards achieving that dream career.

There is no need to wait until you have a real career or until you graduate to create an online profile — regardless of what site you choose. It is more beneficial to do it now to increase your network base. Relationships take time to build, so waiting in this case is a bad idea.

If you’re looking to land an international job, there is no better place to find a position halfway across the world than through a professional or social networking site like LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. You never know what may come from these connections.

Obviously there are no instant remedies to the dreaded job search, but there are definitely online tools that can make the process simpler. You can recommend or be recommended by classmates or colleagues for future jobs all by using resources found online.

Employers prefer to hire someone that comes recommended by someone they know and trust, so the more recommendations you receive, the more you expand your network online.

Tracey Mitchell, Saskatchewan coordinator for the Next Up Leadership program, highlights that, “Social media is what you make it.”  Thus, it is important to use social media to make real connections in the outside world, which can in turn be used to step away from the computer and make real human contact.

You have to make your online presence work for you — tap into alumni networks with the alumni tools, connect with other students, use it as an opportunity to meet as many people as you can — you never know who might connect you to your next employer.

Get connected with your co-workers, follow companies you have an interest in working for or whose causes you support and join groups that align with your interests. The larger your network and the more knowledgeable you become about emergent issues in your field, the more you increase your employability.


Graphic: Cody Schumacher/Graphics Editor